February 4, 2013

Mailbag Monday #5

*Disclaimer: this post is not satirical. It is serious.*

This week we have a BONA FIDE question from a REAL reader! It might not be as entertaining to some of you, but it's fucking informative beyond belief – so pay attention but you needn't put your coffee down as there will not likely be any choking or snorting. Ever wondered about heart rate training? Ever stupidly compared yourself to your DailyMile friends? Ever wanted an honest opinion on your time goal? Cyn did. And Cyn asked. Here is our brief exchange –

And THANK YOU, CYN!!!!!!!

(For those of you unfamiliar with these – HR = heart rate and PE = perceived effort.)


You seem like you are an experienced runner.   I'm a newish runner (been running for 1.5 years) and training for my first marathon - Eugene on April 28th.

My coach has me using a HR monitor and most of my runs are in a low heart rate.  I am running maybe ~1 hour in zone 3 (MP) each week and maybe ~20 - 30 minutes zone 4, 5 minutes at the most V02max, but that's it.  However; I see people on FB and dailymile with my same time goal and they are cranking out double the mileage I am and running their "slow runs" are 1 - 1.5 minutes faster per mile than me.  They SWEAR their slow runs are by PE and are very easy.   I feel like I'm getting left behind.  

People tell me I should be in tune with my body enough to not use my HR strap, but I think I'd end up lying to myself about my PE if I'm not using it. 

What are your thoughts about using a HR strap to keep your slow runs slow?


ps. I'm an engineer and love me some data and cold, hard facts(won't let me lie to myself) and don't mind using a HR strap.


Hi Cyn.

Thanks so much for the email. I'm honored that you are asking me for advice on this. I'm going to try to give you a serious answer  I hope that's okay with you. I know you want reassurance on your training NOW.

First of all, I am completely sold on HR training. 

Secondly, if you think you'll lie to yourself about PE then you will. I think you can commit to the strap. See what happens if you start out without looking at the watch and find out where PE puts you on the both the heart rate and pace scale.

Third, this is your first marathon...WTF are you doing having a time goal? Lose it.

Now some further questions so that I may better address your concerns:

What is this time goal?
What are your other race times...recent and PR (w/ dates)?
What is your weekly mileage right now? 
Are you cross-training?
What's your athletic background (if any) prior to running?
Why in the FUCK are you listening to anyone other than YOURSELF and your coach? 
Why are you comparing yourself to people on DM?

Here are some more random thoughts on this...

*Let's say, for instance, that your time goal is simply sub 4. And let's say that your z3 HR tends to regularly convert over to about 9:15-9:30/mile and your recent half time is about 1:55 and your 5K is about 24:30, then your coach is probably totally spot on with what you are doing. Ignore everyone else. They are training for THEIR race not yours. 

*We're still 12-ish weeks out from Eugene. Why are you stressing? 

*People are full of shit. AND most people overtrain. Sounds like your coach is building you up. You need a solid foundation that isn't injured or skirting injury in order to build a strong race.

Answer my questions and I'll see what other pearls of wisdom I can give you.

Again, thanks so much for the email.

MILF Runner


After getting her responses to my questions:

Time goal:  sub 4  (how did I guess that one?) which is a BQ for a woman of her age.

Recent race times:  5K 25:40 and half-marathon 1:57:17. Lives, trains, and races at altitude.
Running 4 days/week for between 17 and 25 miles – mostly Z2
Cross-training:  2 days/week biking and 2 days/week yoga

Previous athletic background and reason for setting time goal:  "I have a 9+ year history of mtn biking - specifically ultra endurance type of mtn biking and...I did a 6 day mtn bike stage race at high altitude to celebrate my 50th birthday, the cardio fitness from that race allowed me to ease into running." Bottom line – she is a VERY experienced endurance athlete with a very competitive nature and the ability to suffer massively.
But she's worried:  I see a specific friend on DM (we are close to the same pace at races and have the same marathon time goal) cranking out ALL her miles at 9:30s. And she's training slower than her friend.

Then she paid me some awesome compliments and concluded with this:

it's just running...I'm friggin' 51 years old - I'm not super fast and in the whole scheme of things - nobody really gives a shit - it's just a fun stretch goal for me to reach for. Smart.

So I'm hoping my previous experience(and painfully learned lessons) will carry me a long way in my 1st marathon.  Because after all you only get ONE shot at a 1st marathon and I am determined to make the most of it! And gutsy.


Okay, Cyn.

Here's what I think:

A sub 4 is a stretch goal for you. Doesn't mean unreachable. Like you say, you're tough and have a ton of endurance experience behind you. I recommend training as per your coach. You should be able to ask coach questions and coach should be able to answer them satisfactorily. Clearly you value your coach's opinion. At this stage in the training plan you don't need to be running more than 15-20 miles a week, IMO. Great if you're doing more and fine if less. And I definitely think a solid and successful marathon training plan can consist of only 3 days/week of running. 

Also, remember that different bodies respond to different training regimens, but eventually all bodies need rest. Your DailyMile friend may very well pay a price for how she is training. Is she working with a coach? or a piece of paper? 

Patience. Trust. And don't forget your sparkly skirt. 

There must be a Kung Fu Pandaquote that will fit in here somewhere –

And thanks for the compliments.

MILF Runner


  1. "Third, this is your first marathon...WTF are you doing having a time goal? Lose it."
    OHHH I wish I had been more sincere with myself and had not tried to BQ on my first/second marathon attempt.

    Which brings me to:
    "Because after all you only get ONE shot at a 1st marathon and I am determined to make the most of it! And gutsy."

    I sort of refuse to believe this, I finished my "first marathon" last year, I attempted one in 2009 and QUIT at mile 7. DNF!! Something that has never been in my vocabulary!

    2012 I finished that same marathon, limping to the end, but finished it, that's what I call my first marathon. NOT that I want Cyn to not be able to finish her first, but it's all in the eye of the beholder, no one cares about your time as much as you do, and no one will care which marathon is your "first". Make it a good experience, listen to your coach and the wise words of MILF runner and you'll have a great time.

  2. Disclaimers? You mean things aren't always what they appear to be on the internet and bona fide credentials are in the eyes of the bona fided? Then again, no where does it say anything about credentials, bonda fide or other, right?

    Perception sometimes doesn't equal reality. Even with certain types of straps. I meant straps with HR monitors specifically for those reading too much into this.

  3. Wow. This is a whole lotta analysis for the Monday after SuperBowl. I think my brain had a power surge.

  4. 12 weeks out... didn't they read my blog on how to train for a marathon... you only need 5 weeks!!! So maybe her coach is getting her fit enough to train for the marathon plenty of time to build... and I alway say easy is easy and hard, well you only need so much. You don't want tired legs come the big day.

    So have fun out there and yes use the HR and don't worry about pace, when she runs hard it will be fast enough, and YES go for the sub 4 why not!

  5. thanks for the great advice Milf!

    Coach Dion - no I didn't read your blog on how to train for a marathon. Really - only 5 weeks needed??

    I love my coach - he's a data nerd - he sends me the NPG(normalized grade pace) for my time in zone 3 every with along with pretty charts noting progress. In addition, it's on the schedule for me to do a FUEL test - tells you exactly the carb/fat ratio you burn at specific paces....should help me dial in my marathon nutrition needs. :)


Say it. But if you can't own your shit, don't dump it on me.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...